22 October 2019

John Cohen's The high lonesome sound

Music is the celebration of the hard life here in Kentucky. The home music and the church singing are a way of holding on to the old dignity. Music is not an escape. It gives a way of making life possible to go on. Life is hard here, and music is the celebration.

These words follow the beginning of the half-hour documentary film The high lonesome sound (1963). Shot by John Cohen in eastern Kentucky in 1962, it shows musicians including Roscoe Holcomb (1912-81) and an open-air show by Bill Monroe & his Blue Grass Boys in Hazard, KY. Many classic still photos shot at the same time are in Cohen's latest book, Speed bumps on a dirt road (see the BIB for 11 Sept.).

John Cohen, the last member of the original New Lost City Ramblers, died on Monday 16 Sept. at the age of 87. A video of the film can be viewed here.

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